Welcome to The Hub, your spot for ecosystem and accelerator news. In this news roundup, we provide you with the latest on organizations working to support, educate and fund innovators and their ideas. We’ll highlight cohort applications, people to know in the incubator world and programs working to give resources to those who typically don’t have access elsewhere. As always, we’re focused on underrepresented entrepreneurs — such as women, people of color, and those geographically outside power centers — and organizations supporting these demographics.
If you have a piece of news or a job listing you think will fit into this roundup, email it to Skyler Rossi at [email protected].
Last week, Times of Entrepreneur reporter Skyler Rossi tuned into Babson Connect Worldwide, an annual gathering of entrepreneurs, leaders and investors across the world, hosted by Babson College. The program attracted 1,200 people from 58 countries across five continents, the college said. Key takeaways:
Seek People With Big Dreams Who Are Smarter Than You
Marcelo Claure, the CEO of SoftBank Group International told the story of the revival of WeWork, which he said should be profitable by the end of this year, thanks to a five year plan led by him. Masa Son, the founder of the bank, assigned Claure the role of reviving the fallen company, since he was able to turn things around at Sprint during his time as the CEO from 2014-2018.
This time, Claure’s learned a few lessons from his last time “fixing” a company, as he put it. He said the main lesson he learned is to hire people smarter than you. With Sprint, he said, he thought he could do it alone and it ended up spiting himself as it took him a year and a half to learn telecommunications tech. “If I were to do it again, I would hire somebody that’s better than me in that first week or first month,” he said. With WeWork, he did that, hiring Sandeep Lakhmi Mathrani, who knew the ins and outs of the real estate industry, he said.
“I call it a more mature phase in my life,” he said. “I am so much better if I can hire people that are better than me, and you should never be scared to hire people that are better, smarter faster than you. Because if you don’t, you’re just setting up your limitations and you’re hindering the growth of the company and hindering your personal growth.”
His Formula For The Best Employees: The type of people he looks for are those who dream big, can see into the long term, are relentless and can move quickly, especially when disrupting industries. “It is so important to back entrepreneurs who are big thinkers, big dreamers, because those are the ones that are capable of doing big disruption,” he said.
He noted to the virtual audience that “there has never been a better time in human history to be an entrepreneur because pretty much everywhere you look, you can actually build a business because everything is up for grabs.”
“I go back to being an entrepreneur 10 years ago, and it was really hard,” he said. “There were fewer industries that would be disrupted. The investment industry has totally been redefined. And pretty much every industry is up for grabs, right? So there’s never been a better time.”
Collaboration Is Back In Style
After decades in which individualism and its toxic cousin, narcissism, dominated the business world, is collaboration and community interest coming back into style? A point many of the speakers brought up was the pandemic’s effect on collaboration: never before have so many people come together to solve a medical challenge.
In the first session of the week, Steve Pagliuca, the co-chairman at Boston-based Bain Capital and co-owner of the Boston Celtics, discussed “the Manhattan Project for Covid-19,” a group of billionaires and scientists who gathered together last April to figure out how to defeat Covid-19 in its early days that was led by Tom Cahill, a physician-turned-venture capitalist backed by Bain Capital. The initiative is one of the first times so many came together for medical advancement and illustrates the true power of collaboration. Its resulting report led to several White House and state COVID safety mandates.
“It’s been a labor of love, a great project,” he said. “And I think an example where we have to bring this country together and get all the best thinking and best science to solve problems, like COVID, but other problems that are that have been persistent out there that require systemic and big solutions.”
Esther Krofah, the executive director of FasterCures at the Milken Institute of Public Health, shared during her session Thursday that her phone has rang off the hook during the pandemic with people with ideas to solve the many problems caused by the pandemic — from dogs who can sniff out positive cases like they can drugs to ways to get more people tested. “Entrepreneurs and private sectors did really roll up their sleeves and jump in with both feet,” she said.
As Fast As You Are, Be Quicker
The pandemic has forced nearly everyone to adapt, and it’s vital that businesses do, said Dino Lalvani, the chairman and chief executive at Hong Kong-based Binatone Communications Group, during his session Friday. “You can sit and cry about it, or you can pivot and change and execute a different plan. But you’ve got to be quick.”
Binatone, a player in the baby and pet monitor space, has shifted its communication innovation for the stay-at-home world. Most recently, the group launched the MaskFone, a mask and bluetooth headphone combo that fixes the muffled sound of talking on the phone while wearing a mask. It’s an innovation that is especially useful in the company’s headquarters of Hong Kong and other Asian places, where it’s typical to wear a mask anytime you’re sick.
We Need an Warning System for Future Pandemics
The next steps of the pandemic, Krofah said during her session, is to keep innovating the future. Keep innovating vaccine distribution, keep innovating detection of viruses and keep innovating responses to pandemics. “We have a boom bust cycle when it comes to epidemics or pandemics,” she said. “But we tend to move on once we’ve gotten past that immediate urgency.”
The Milken Institute has launched an early warning system to try to survey when potential epidemics or pandemics can emerge, she said. The goal is to find ways to detect when viruses appear and find ways to seclude patient zero when the next one does arise.
“There will be another pandemic,” she said. “And we certainly should not be caught flat footed as we were this time around.”
Stories Are Capital
Patricia Riberas, transformation & organization director at Madrid-based manufacturer Gestamp, highlighted an innovation the company has taken to cope with hiring issues it ran into during 2017, a problem that feels especially relevant as COVID-19 has left many wondering where they will find their next hires. The factory runs a work/study program through its Chattanooga, Tennessee factories, which employ high school students part time. Students in the program work for the auto manufacturer, learning the technicalities of the plant for half the day and attending school online for the other half.
Students earn $9 an hour, which increases to $12 an hour once they are certified, according to a 2018 article from the high school district. So far, the program has taken on 30 juniors and seniors in high school each year at its Chattanooga plants, all of which graduated from the program, Riberas said.
The program, which attracts kids struggling to get through traditional school, has, in a way, brought together the company that’s so large. “The little stories that we have in many of our plants worldwide, we realized that it’s capital,” she said. “It’s beautiful when we have a story like that and we can share it with the rest of the group. It created a lot of engagement and a lot of people felt very proud to be part of a company that allows things like this to happen.”
The program is especially touching to Riberas, whose father founded the company. She said when she went to Chattanooga and met the kids in the program, she shed tears. “It may be very small, it’s only a small percentage of the people that we have worldwide, but the fact that something like that can make us all come closer together and can make me feel close to the people that are on the shop floor, that was very important.”
Accion Opportunity Fund and American Express To Invest In Small Businesses
Accion Opportunity Fund, the San Jose, California-based Community Development Financial Institution, is partnering with American Express to provide loans and other resources to small business owners in the U.S., according to an April 20 news release. American Express is investing $40 million in the Opportunity Fund, which the fund estimates will create “more than $125 million in loans for small businesses,” according to the release. The funds will be focused on business owners of color, immigrants and women, like the rest of the Opportunity Fund’s investments, according to the release.
Mastercard Invests in Fund Focused on Supporting Women of Color Entrepreneurs
Mastercard announced Tuesday a multi-million dollar investment (the exact amount was undisclosed) in the Fearless Fund, a venture capital firm with a focus on funding minority female entrepreneurs, CNBC reports. The Atlanta-based fund was co-founded by Keshia Knight-Pulliam, Arian Simone, and Ayana Parsons in 2018. The partnership is launching the Fearless Strivers Grant Contest, which will provide seven small businesses run by women of color $10,000 — one in the U.S., two from Atlanta, two from New York City and two from New Orleans, according to the fund’s website. Applications for the challenge are open until May 23.
Founder Institute Chicago Accepting Applications
Applications are open for the Founder Institute’s Chicago program. The accelerator, which is based in Palo Alto, California but has programs in more than 190 cities across the world, offers four-month accelerators to technology entrepreneurs at the pre-seed stage. For now, the Chicago program is virtual (along with every other program), but co-founder Jonathan Greechan recommends entrepreneurs apply to the program in their own geographical location in order to get the most out of its resources and connections when physical locations do open back up. The program has a $999 fee. Applications are due May 2.
Rhode Island Launches Summer 2021 Cohort Applications
Social Enterprise Greenhouse, a Providence, Rhode Island-based accelerator, has opened applications for its summer 2021 cohort, The Cranston Herald reports. The program is open to anyone with a business idea or anyone who wants to fine tune an existing business, according to the article. The ten-week program will offer a curriculum covering topics such as marketing, finances and planning. Applications are due April 30.
Ontario Incubator Seeks International Startups Looking To Make Roots in Canada
The City of Brampton and Toronto Business Development Centre in Ontario, Canada are launching a new incubator, called BHive, which will support international startups “looking to break into the North American Market,” according to an article by Canadian startup news company betakit. Startups are required to have an endorsement “from an authorized designated entity” as part of the application process. Those coming with employees will receive endorsements from the program to accelerate their visa application process, according to the article. Applications are open for the six-month program.
EMPEA Expands To Southeast Asia
EMPEA, a nonprofit that represents private capital investors who manage more than $1 trillion in assets across Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, recently announced the launch of its Asia headquarters in Singapore. The new location will be staffed by senior advisor Steve Okun, who established the network of investors in the area which the headquarters aims to grow, and Ethan Koh, the group’s Asia research director. “The new EMPEA headquarters allows the organization to effectively represent the leading fund and institutional investors based in Southeast Asia, and to build bridges among investors across global markets with Singapore as a key nexus,” according to the release.